Iconic mother's market deserted

Iconic mother's market deserted

Two days after the massive 6.8 earthquake that shook eastern India, Bangladesh and northern Myanmar, people are back to business in the worst-hit Manipur.

However, there is something missing in the state capital Imphal. The busiest landmark of the city – the world famous mother’s market is deserted. Two of the three sheds of the Ima Keithel (mother market) were badly damaged by the quake. The 5,000-odd women vendors who sold an array of items there are now anxious about their future.

“Two of our sheds are damaged. This building cannot be used now. We have over 4000 licensed vendors. Apart from 1,500 illegal vendors who sell items at footpath. This is Asia’s largest all women market and an iconic landmark. About 2,000 vendors have lost their livelihood. We went and met Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and he assured help, but he did not bother to visit us. He did not send team in the last two days. If this attitude continues will we launch agitations,” said 68-year-old R K Radhesana Devi who is the Vice-President of Khwairamband Nupi Keithel Samgat Sagat Lup, the apex body of the vendors. Radhesana has been running her indigenous wear vending from this market for the past 25 years. Like others, she pays a monthly rent of Rs 90 and is allocated a 3×3 sqft space. Even in average weeks where there is low customers she makes about Rs 3000 a week.

“My husband is a retired senior government official. My children are earning. So I have less to worry. But this market provides living to hundreds of families who are poor and needy. It was the only means of earning through dignity for many widows of conflicts, orphans and mothers who have lost their children in the decades of conflicts,” Radhesana added.

The market dates back before the British Raj. About five years back, the new concrete sheds were built with central funding. Now what remain are broken walls, titled pillars and bend railings.

“Women come to not buy and sell in Ima market, but is a social meeting place. Even women from very well off families have space here. It has also been a melting pot of ethnicities given the fact that in Manipur there is ethnic distrust otherwise. It is a tourist attraction as well and second to none in the world,” explained senior journalist Sanzu Bachaspatimayum. 

A few women from this market shocked the world with their naked protests against extra judicial killings in 2004 in front of the historic Kangla Fort.
 

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